Sainsbury has launched a major drive to improve availability in its stores.

“Our internal measures say we are improving but our anecdotal evidence is that it is not good enough,” managing director Stuart Mitchell told the retailer’s annual suppliers conference. And he added: “This is everyone’s problem, but it can be everyone’s opportunity.”

Mitchell explained that Sainsbury was focusing on two internal initiatives.

He said the first - dubbed ‘Moments of Certainty’ - would ensure that every store was ready for action at 8:30 in the morning and 5 at night.

“We are investing in our supply chain to make that happen and in our stores to make sure that replenishment is done at key points of the day,” Mitchell added.

The second initiative involves a commitment to always having
1,000 top lines in stock. Mitchell said this initiative was not being dumped on the stores, but was a major push that would involve the buying teams, supply chain and retail.

He told suppliers 12 stores had tested the initiative with “encouraging” results. And in The Grocer 33 shopping survey this week, both Sainsbury stores we visited delivered full baskets.

“We think our availability can and will improve. We will galvanize the business in the same way as we did on service,” Mitchell added.

He told the conference that Sainsbury continued to work hard on boosting its service levels, not least through its Scan and Pack initiative. The next stage of its focus on service will revolve around systems designed to cut queues for shoppers. A more reliable version of its Fast Track self-scanning will be rolled out to 200 stores by the end of next June. And Mitchell said self-checkout tills would be in 55 stores by March next year.

“We are very excited about this,” he said. “We are not first to market with self-checkout but we will be the first to mass market. This is an example of how, when we find something good, we will move it at pace through the business.”

Julian Hunt